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Ancient Egypt and the Nile

Pre-trip Tour of Jerusalem, Israel

March 19 - March 26, 2006

This trip started off with Owego having a snow fall of several inches

on the morning of the 19th.  In spite of mother nature my plane left

Broome County Airport almost on time.  My first stop

was Dulles Airport in Washington, and then a quick flight to JFK,

before boarding an Austrian Airlines flight to Vienna at 6:25 pm. 

After a short stop in Vienna, it was off for a three hour flight to Tel Aviv, Israel.   

Lastly, there was a short bus ride to our hotel in Jerusalem. 

I checked into the hotel at 5:30 pm.  It was the end of a long

two days of flights to reach Israel.

This pre-trip optional tour was to Israel, the main tour was to Cairo,

Egypt and included a Nile river cruise.

The sun rising over Jerusalem, it promises to be a warm, pleasant day. 

Our tour bus left the hotel at 7:30 am for the Mount of Olives.

The view from the mount was awesome on this cool morning. 

The domed building in the middle of the photo is Mosque of Omar.

A view of the cemetery burial grounds just below the top of Mount of Olives. 

It can cost $50,000.00 to be buried in the Mount cemetery.

The local vendors were out in force this morning sell everything

from maps of the holy city to camel or donkey rides. 

The Puerta de Oro or Golden Gates through Jesus entered the

holy city as he moved to the site of his Crucifixion.

The Church of St. Mary Magdalene (Gold Domes), it was built

by Czar Alexander III between 1885 and 1888.

I am stand in front of The Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus

endured his agony before he was arrested.

The rock where Jesus it is believed to have knelt in prayer. 

This spot is encircled by a crown of hammered steel thorns

within the altar of the Church of All Seasons.

My next stop was at the Old City of Jerusalem.  We entered the city via the

Dung Gate leading to the Western Wall Plaza.  It was a crowded

area as this is the high season to visit Jerusalem.

There were groups of tourists being briefed in the area of the West Wall. 

Many tourist wore colored hats to make it easy to identify them. 

Our group did not have this type of attire.

The Western or Wailing Wall is in the background. 

Many pilgrims were praying at the wall this day. 

It is considered the most holy place by the Jewish religion.

Early ruins excavated in the area near the West Wall Plaza. 

There were many excavated ruins in and around Jerusalem.

The famous Zion Gate leading into the Jewish Quarter of the old city. 

The gate had the hundreds marks on the walls left by bullet and cannon shells

from Israel's War of Independence in 1967.  They are left there as a

remembrance of the war struggle by the Israeli  people.

This photo was taken at the Ninth Station of the Cross, we walked part of the 

length of the Dolorosa or the Way of Sorrows.  This route, followed

by the world's orthodox Christians, led from the Antonia Fortress, where

Jesus appeared before Pilate and was condemned out to Calvary

this site was outside the city walls at that time. 

The spot for the Ninth Station is near the Ethiopian monastery

and is the spot where Jesus fell the third time.  The dome in the

background is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.  

This is where the last five Stations of the Cross are located.

We had lunch in the old city and a chance to go shopping. 

That made all the old folks on the trip happy.  We returned to our bus

via the Jewish Market which is very much like Istanbul's Grand Bizarre.


This is the entrance gate to Tower of David museum. 

This museum chronicled the history of Israel.

Ancient ruins have been excavated inside the tower area. 

I am standing next to a statue of a member to the Templar Order that

is part of one of the displays in the museum.  The displays depicting the history

of ancient and modern Israel were very well done.

Jaffa Gate at the southern entrance to the old city. 

The gate is very near the Tower of David.

Thus ends a busy and tiring first day in Israel. 

It was Back to the hotel by 4:00 pm for a nap before supper.

Wednesday awoke as a bright and sunny, warm day. 

I have a full day of sightseeing ahead of me.  Our tour group

will travel by bus from Jerusalem to Nazareth, The Sea of Galilee

and lastly the Mount of the Beatitudes.  There were numerous

other stops along the way.  We toured many miles north of Jerusalem this day.

Out first stop after traveling west and north from Jerusalem. 

This included some time traversing the Jordan Valley we arrived at Nazareth, 

In Nazareth, we visited the Church of Annunciation.  Nazareth is the childhood home of Jesus. 

The Church of the Annunciation is a fairly new structure and

has several interesting stained glass windows.

Standing in the court yard of the Church of the Annunciation.

We left Nazareth for our lunch stop a Kibbutz Ein Gev on the shores

of the Sea of Galilee.  This is a photo of their famous fish restaurant

where we had lunch.  I had their noted St. Peter's fish that was served

with head and tails intact.  It was a delicious meal.  After lunch, we had a

tour of their grounds including stops at the dairy barns, ostrich pens

and the banana growing plantation.  They are very self sufficient kibbutz,

including the catching fish on the Sea of Galilee.

The banana plantation.  There was acre after of acre of netting

covering the banana trees.  It was explained that the netting helped to

keep the humidity inside the banana plantations thus

causing the trees not to need extra watering.

As we drove away from the Ein Gev Kibbutz we passed by the Golan Heights.

At the north end of the Sea of Galilee we passed over the Jordan River.


Our next stop was Capernaum, where we were able to view extensive

ancient ruins of the fourth century White Synagogue. 

Capernaum is located on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee.  

The flowering trees were in full bloom.

Standing among the White Synagogue ruins.

A statue of Saint Peter.  The excavation area under the church

is said to be of Saint Peter's house.

Our next stop was at Tabkha, one of the most important site's of Christ's

ministry in Galilee occurred.  Above  is a photo the altar of the

Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes.  In the center under

the altar table is a rock that is the supposed spot where Christ stood

when he fed 5,000 followers with five loaves and two fishes.

Sea of Galilee from Tabkha,

On the top of the hill behind The Church of the Multiplication is the

famous Mount of the Beatitudes.  This is also know as the

Sermon on the Mount location.  This sermon famously began with

Christ's blessings or beatitudes.  Above is a photo of the Church of the

Beatitudes.  It is a fairly new structure and commands a view of the Sea of Galilee.

Thus ended a very long touring day for me. 

Our bus left the hotel at 7:00 am and we returned to the hotel

at about 6:30 pm.  It was a great day of sightseeing!

It's Thursday, March 23, 2006 and I am heading off for another day

of sightseeing adventures.   Our hotel is in the background. 

It is 8:00 am and we are going to visit museums this morning. 

Our first stop was at the Caprice Diamond Factory and Showroom. 

No bargains there and everything was very overpriced. 

I did not even take my camera into the building.

This is the entrance building of the Yad Vashem Memorial to the Holocaust. 

This is the main building at the museum.  It was a very modern building in

construction and held many exhibits concerning the Holocaust. 

There were many audio visual presentations incorporated into the various exhibits.

There were many interesting sculptures located on the ground of the museum.

I am standing in the entrance to the Children's  Memorial which is a

candle-lit cavern in which a looped tape recites the names of the

estimated 1.5 million children exterminated by the Nazis. 

This was a truly moving experience for me.

Another touching memorial was to the teacher Janusz Korczak,

who would not abandon his students when he had a chance to escape the Holocaust.

This was a truly special Museum to visit and one should not miss it if they go to Jerusalem.

Out next stop of the morning was at the the Israel Museum,

is the site of the Shrine of the Book.  This shrine is the location of

some of the Dead Sea Scrolls.  The building housing the

scrolls was very distinctive in its design.  Unfortunately no cameras were

allowed in the Museum grounds or buildings.  It was very exciting to see

and learn more about the scrolls and their part in understanding the history of the bible. 

The last adventure of the day was a visit to Bethlehem. 

This Palestine city has been closed to visitors for several years but recently

travel restrictions have been relaxed.  It was a surprise to our group

when we were told that a visit to Bethlehem was possible

and that we could enter the Church of the Nativity.

The border between Israel and Palestine.  We had to have our passports

with us in order to enter Bethlehem.  Interestingly we were not checked

when entering Bethlehem.  Leaving Bethlehem my passport

only got a quick glance fro the border guard.


Our tour group heading to the Church of the Nativity.

Entering the Church's small Door of Humility.

Entering the Grotto of the Nativity under the church.

This silver star is set in the floor over the sport where Christ is said to have been born.

Nearby in the same grotto is the spot where Jesus' manger was located.

St. Catherine's Church that is next to the Church of the Nativity. 

On the right side of the nave, stairs descend to the grottos of the Holy Innocents,

St. Joseph and St. Jerome.  The traditional Christmas mass from

Bethlehem is broadcast worldwide from St. Catherine's each Christmas eve.

After the visit to the Church of the Nativity, we were taken to this

store to shop for relics of our visit to Bethlehem.   It was a very

interesting visit in that the store's owner provided us with bus

transportation and a guide for our visit to Bethlehem. 


By now its was after five o'clock and it was time to return to our hotel

and enjoy our dinner.  Thus Thursday's day of sightseeing ends

with many memorable memories.

Its day 5, Friday, March 24.  We are up and on the road early as

today is our optional trip to the Dead Sea.  Above is our bus that

we have ridden in since arriving in Jerusalem. 

Along the way we drove by some beautiful scenery like these mountains. 

It was a very dry and uninhabitable environment for miles.

This is our first stop of the morning was at large rocky plateau is

Masada (Hebrew for fortress).  This fortress is the symbol of Jewish freedom

To reach the fortress we had to ride a cable car from the Masada National Park Visitor Center. 

The only other way to the fortress was by hiking up the Snake Path that wound its way to the top.

You can see part of the path as it reaches the top of the plateau.

This is a view of the Dead Sea from Masada.  It was a bit hazy but still an awesome sight.

The fortress was built by Herod, the Great King and he used it as a refuge. 

This is a view of some of the ruins that have been excavated

by the National Park staff.  There was a casement wall around the plateau,

along with storehouses, large cisterns, that were ingeniously filled with

rain water, barracks, palaces and an armory.

One of several cisterns located within the fortress. 

They defenders living in the fortress had ample food and

water storage to last out a long siege. 

A view toward the Northern Palace.  This site witnessed the most dramatic

episodes in history when centuries ago on this gaunt plateau,

a group of freedom fighters fought against the might of the ancient Roman Empire. 

The Zealots defending the fortress decided to kill themselves rather than

submit to the oppressor's tyranny.  This struggle has

played a role on Jewish history over the many years.

A last view from the fortress.  It was a very interesting start to our day's tour.

After lunch, we had a quick stop at the Kibbutz where

minerals taken from the Dead Sea are used to make skin care preparations. 

The store showed us a video about their products.

After our stop at the Ahava store, we went to the Kibbutz's Mineral Beach

for a swim in the Dead Sea.  The swim was really a float as the

water was too dense for swimming.  It was also loaded with minerals

which we were cautioned not to get in our eyes or ears. 

No swallowing of the water either! The above sign warns

about where you can go when covered with black mud.

These people are covering themselves with mud from the

bottom of the Dead Sea.  It is supposed to have

magical therapeutic powers.  It just looked very messy to me!

 This is my friend Doc Moore having a floating good time in the Dead Sea.

Our last stop of the day was at Qumran National Park.

Qumran is the site of the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. 

The cave where the scrolls were hidden is in the middle of this photo. 

The Scrolls have provided a voluminous body of Jewish documents

dating from the third century B.C. to 68 A.D. These scrolls demonstrate

the rich literary activity of the Second Temple Period in Jewry  and

sheds insight into centuries pivotal to both Judaism and Christianity. 

Above is the water way that led to the cisterns of this radical ascetic

and reclusive community that lived at Qumran.

This optional day trip was great fun, where else could I see adults

covering themselves with mud and floating on water and

also visit a very  beautiful ancient fortress site.

It is a little before six on the last full day available for sightseeing in Israel. 

The day broke with clouds and a rather cool breeze blowing. 

I am off on a last optional tour to Caesarea and Haifa.

Our first stop of the day was at Caesarea, where was a small

village used by the Phoenicians in their maritime travels along the

coast of the Mediterranean Sea.  When Herod, King of the Jews,

and Tributary to Rome, received Judaea as his holding

he built a deep-water port which he named Caesarea. 

Above is the outside of the large Greco-Roman theater that Herod had built at Caesarea.

This is a view of the 13,000 seat amphitheater that Herod built

which was used for sporting events and as a horse race track. 

I am standing in front of the amphitheater. 

It was a windy day on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.

The surf was surging and made for great waves!

A view of the Roman Wall which was part of the fortifications of ancient Caesarea.

I am standing in front of aqueduct system that Herod had built to

bring water to Caesarea from the mountains which were nearby. 

They are thinking about repairing it for use in the near future.

After lunch we went on to Haifa which is Israel major sea port

and third largest city.  Above is a view of the city and harbor.

This is a view of the beautiful Baha'i Gardens found on the hillside of Mt. Carmel. 

The Baha'i temple is in the background of this photo.

Haifa is the world headquarters of the Baha'i faith.

Our last stop on this tour was at Mt. Carmel at the

Carmelite Pilgrim Center, Stella Maris.  The altar pictured above

was over the crypt of the prophet Elijah who confronted the prophets of Baal.


Thus end my first trip to Israel.  It was a wonderful trip. 

I saw sights that I never imagined I would get a chance to travel to. 

The various biblical spots were moving to experience.

Tomorrow I fly on to Cairo, Egypt for the regular part of this trip to

Ancient Egypt and the Nile River tour.  I have decided to split the

tour into two parts due to the large number of great spots

visited and the large number of photos I have taken.


Look for "Ancient Egypt and the Nile, The Visit to Egypt" trip listed on my web page.